U.S. charges 9 Iranians in massive hacking scheme

25 March, 2018, 00:57 | Author: Chad Mckenzie
  • Chairman for the Committee for Foreign Policy and National Security in Iran Alaeddin Boroujerdi

American government officials said they've determined that the nine Iranians, in cooperation with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, were behind the hacking effort.

An indictment announced in Washington, D.C., said Tehran's Mabna Institute stole data worth $3.4 billion from the US schools, including two in NY, from 2013 to 2017, and also hacked 176 foreign universities, 47 private companies, and several state and federal government entities.

Deputy US Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has alleged that the Iranian hackers breached university computer systems and stole intellectual property and other research.

According to the indictments, the defendants were affiliated with Iran's Mabna Institute, an Iran-based company that, since at least 2013, has helped Iranian universities and research organizations hack into and steal scientific resources from foreign countries and institutions.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein today announced the indictment of nine Iranians accused of perpetrating a large-scale hacking campaign on US colleges and businesses on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. But others congratulated the same agency for indicting hackers from both countries.

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The justice department said the firm hacked 320 universities around the world, dozens of companies and parts of the United States government. "Any nation state, Iran in this case, can say these were rogue groups, but when there is overwhelming proof, the circumstantial evidence can pile up".

The emails purported to be from professors at another university and indicated the sender had read an article written by them, prosecutors said.

The National Cyber Security Centre assessed with "high confidence" that the Mabna Institute was "almost certainly responsible" for the campaign targeting universities in the UK, US and other Western nations.

The hackers are also accused of breaking into the networks of government organizations, including the Department of Labor, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the United Nations and private sector entities, including 36 American companies, the Journal reported.

Justice Department officials called it the largest state-sponsored hacking campaign the US government has ever prosecuted. But once clicked on, the links steered the professors to a malicious Internet domain that led them to believe they'd been logged out of their systems and that asked them to enter their log-in credentials. "That stolen information was used by the Revolutionary Guard or sold for profit in Iran", he added.

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The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control issued sanctions against the Iranians on Friday.

In the case of universities, attackers targeted professors with well-crafted phishing attacks.

The attacks, as detailed in a 27-page indictment, targeted hundreds of universities around the globe, gleaning 31.5 terabytes of data and leaving a $3.4 billion trail of damages in its wake.

The Obama administration in 2016 indicted seven Iranians for distributed-denial-of-service attacks on dozens of U.S. banks and for trying to shut down a NY dam.

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